28. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
29 There was a vessel filled with common wine.* So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.
Friends, peace be with you. Thank you to Pastor Chuck for inviting me to participate in this Good Friday reflection on the last seven words of Christ. My name is Fr. Dennis Miller and I am the chaplain of Loras College and Clarke University.
The fifth word, on which I will reflect with you, is “I thirst”, which is a translation of the Greek word “dispao”, used 17 times in the New Testament, including the story of the woman at the well in the fourth chapter of this gospel, the gospel of John. I believe that is a deliberate connection done by the gospel writer and I will explain that fuller in just a moment.
The Hebrew, Old Testament word that is the equivalent is “same” or “sama”, used a total of 23 times beginning in Exodus 17 when, at Meribah and Massah, the Israelites clamored against the Lord and his servant, Moses, for water. They thirsted in the desert and God provided for them water from a rock, which Moses struck with his staff. When I looked at other connections to the Hebrew word “sama” I found that if you simply add a “d” to the end, making it “samad”, the word means “joined in worship” or “yoked”. Which sort of makes sense in the normal way we think of thirsting. We thirst for God together as members of the body of Christ. That’s why almost all Christians believe that the first thing one does in order to call yourself a Christian is to be baptized in water, a kind of spiritual refreshment. And, indeed, in the gospel of John chapter 2, Jesus recognized the thirst that people had at a wedding in Cana and fulfilled that thirst by turning water into wine. You may remember that there was a certain reluctance in Jesus to perform this miracle, possibly in part because, especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus does not want to be seen as just another magical miracle worker. He is something different in the core of his being. He is the one who can fulfill the thirsty soul, not one who will water his followers like cattle yoked together in worship.
We thirst for Christ, yes. But today we hear that Jesus thirsts. He expresses this same sentiment to the Samaritan Woman in John chapter 4 verse 7. “Give me a drink”. This simple request marks the beginning of a profound experience of conversion for this foreigner to the Jewish faith. Jesus thirsted, but not for her water. He thirsted for her faith. And today, from the cross, Jesus turns to us and says, “I thirst”. He thirsts for us to know him as the living water who is greater than the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets. He thirsts for us to turn to him with our hurts and sins and to seek his healing and forgiveness. He thirsts for us to come to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. He thirsts for us to come to know him as a brother and as a Messiah, as most high God and as a friend who knows us better than we know ourselves.
A reflection attributed to Saint Teresa of Calucutta reflected on this by saying, “God thirsts for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe God’s love for you: GOD THIRSTS FOR YOU. He thirsts to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to him. GOD THIRSTS FOR YOU. Come to him and he will fill your heart and heal your wounds. God will make you a new creation and give you peace, even in all your trials. GOD THIRSTS FOR YOU. You must never doubt God’s mercy, God’s acceptance of you, God’s desire to forgive, His longing to bless you and live his life in you. GOD THIRSTS FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For God, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. GOD THIRSTS FOR YOU. Open to HIM, come to HIM, thirst for HIM, give your life to the Lord and he will prove to you how important you are to his Heart. GOD THIRSTS FOR YOU.